Prior to joining the Lightning, you worked at various levels including the CHL, the collegiate level and midget hockey. What did you learn about performing your job at the NHL level last season?
The difference between the NHL level and the lower levels is basically the schedule. An 82-game schedule versus a 35-game schedule is very different, and it means having games during the week. Most lower-levels only have games on weekends, so sometimes here when you have three or four games during the week you really have to adapt to the schedule.
How difficult is it to balance your methods of training with those of players such as Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, who are accustomed to working out with their own long-time personal trainers?
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That’s a great point because I arrive here when the season starts and they’ve all been working with their own strength coaches in the summer time. I do contact them and we talk about what’s best for Marty, what’s best for Stammer, what’s best for Vinny and on down to whatever player. I try to tailor what they tell me to each individual because obviously they know them much more than I do having worked with them for years.
As mentioned, you’ve been around hockey a long time and even wrote your graduate thesis on the effects of plyometric training on hockey players. What made you get into hockey as opposed to any other sport?
I would have to say geography. I’m from Montreal, in Canada, and I’m a hockey player, and up there you know it’s huge, it’s like a religion. So, geography. That’s the most popular sport up there and having been a hockey player myself, that’s the only reason I chose it.
Being that you are knowledgeable about training, fitness and nutrition, what surprised you the most regarding the shape NHL athletes are in as opposed to others you’ve worked with at lower levels of the sport?
I would say the preparation. They’ve been working at it for so long. Before, I used to work with younger guys who were just getting into strength training and conditioning, and these guys have been doing it for years, so they’re at the tip of their form I guess, and that’s really good to see.
How much more challenging is your job when you consider that each player on the roster is different and that each workout routine you create must be tailored to each individual’s specific needs?
I would say that’s the most challenging part of my job. If you take a player that plays 30 minutes a game whether it be a defenseman or a forward, that’s very different. If he plays 12 minutes a game, he can do more, and if he plays 18 minutes, you know….so you really have to see about ice time and their conditioning. Some players respond better to more, shorter training sessions during a week and some respond more to less training sessions per week that are a little bit longer, so you do have to get to know them that way also. So it’s challenging to have to get to know 23 different individuals, because no two individuals will respond the same way to the same stimulus.
Many say that NHL players are currently the best they’ve ever been in terms of physical shape, speed and agility. In your opinion, how much do proper training and nutrition support that claim?
I truly agree with that. If you look at the game 30 or 40 years ago and the game today, they’re very, very different. The average player 30 years ago was 20 pounds lighter, and slower, so I think training has a huge impact on it, and nutrition obviously. You can’t out-train a bad diet and you can’t out-eat a bad training regimen, so it’s a huge aspect of the evolution of the athlete in my mind.
Last season the Lightning experienced a lot of injuries throughout the season, but generally speaking, how does your role differ from that of the athletic trainers in rehabbing the players as quickly as possible?
If an injury happens, our trainers take them and then tell me what the athlete needs to be strengthened. They’re the ones who make the initial assessment and then I take them and await instructions on what they need and the types of treatments they should get.
How much of your knowledge and skills regarding your role do you apply to your own personal life?
That’s a very good question. I think you as a strength coach are your resume and you are your own business card. If I didn’t do it, I’d be a hypocrite. So, I have to apply everything I tell the players to myself, because if not, I wouldn’t be credible.